Best the Test: 7 Strategies of Highly Effective Readers

Struggles with reading comprehension are a common thing for students and parents to hear from teachers. The problem can often occur when the child is otherwise advanced for their age with reading ability and vocabulary, but has issues with the recall of events, themes, and characters in a story they have recently read.

One popular helpful tool is the use of metacognitive reading strategies. Metacognition refers to the awareness and understanding of the thought process as it is occurring. 

Metacognitive reading strategies have been shown to increase test scores in longitudinal studies of 3rd graders as tested through 8th grade. Through metacognitive reading strategies, a student can monitor and control their reading, which allows them to better organize and decipher materials during the reading process.

So, what are these strategies and how can they help your child? 

There are several strategies recognized in this process, often called the seven strategies of highly effective readers, and we will break them down for you to use with your kids to help them take their reading comprehension to the next level. 

1. Activating

Activating is engaging the brain and priming it to learn about the materials that are to be read. Here is an example that you can adapt for use with your child. 

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

  • What do we know about the sea? 
  • What kind of animals live in the sea? 
  • What are some things we can find in the water that aren’t animals? 
  • What vehicles do we find in the sea? 
  • Have we ever read books about the sea before?

2. Inferring

Inferring is bringing together the spoken and unspoken parts of the text. The reader utilizes their existing knowledge to deduce and build the meaning of the text. Here is an example you can use with your reader. 

Pancakes for Breakfast

  • Look at the page. What is she doing? What is the lady thinking about? Why is she thinking about pancakes? What do you think she is going to do next?

3. Monitoring-clarifying 

Monitoring-clarifying asks the questions “Do I understand?” and “What am I going to do to help myself understand?”. Here is an example to use with your reader. 


  • What is a wombat? 
  • Where can I look for more information? (Ex: encyclopedia, internet search, ask a librarian).

4. Questioning

Questioning helps the reader find a purpose while reading. It allows your child to go beyond the text and creatively ponder the materials they read. Here are some questions you can apply with your reader to practice this strategy. 

  • What does that word mean?
  • Why is that happening?
  • Why did the author write this?
  • I wonder what would happen if the character…

5. Searching-selecting

Searching-selecting refers to searching the text and selecting a variety of sources in order to answer questions about what your child is reading. Here are some things your child can do when reading to practice this strategy. 

  • Look for contextual cues when reading to help reinforce the vocabulary, meaning, themes and characters in the story.
  • Find information that can help answer any of the questions that come up while reading.

6. Summarizing

Summarizing is the reiteration of what the reader has just read in order to confirm the story or the information they acquired. Here is how to teach this to your reader. 

  • Ask them to reiterate what they have just finished reading.
  • Make sure they are not parroting or simply repeating the text verbatim. 
  • Ask questions that are reflective of what happened in the story or passage. 

7. Visualizing-organizing

Visualizing-organizing is a very fun strategy that can take comprehension further for your reader. Here are some ideas to help you practice this strategy with your child. 

  • Draw a comic strip or other illustration based on the book or a scene from the book.
  • Use graphic organizers like these ones from Reading A-Z.

Using some or all of these strategies when reading with your child can help them build their metacognitive reading and analysis skills. Not only will they be able to interpret text more easily, but they will also grow to enjoy the process of reading. These skills will also provide your child with an advantage during any testing they encounter during their academic career. 


Boulware-Gooden, R., Carreker, S., Thornhill, A., & Joshi, R. M. (2007). Instruction of metacognitive strategies enhances reading comprehension and vocabulary achievement of third-grade students: the use of metacognitive strategies helps students to “think about their thinking” before, during, and after they read. (Report). The Reading Teacher, 61(1), 70.

McEwan-Adkins, E. K. (2004). 7 strategies of highly effective readers: using cognitive research to boost K-8 achievement (T. E. Miller (Ed.)). Corwin Press.

Mokhtari, K. (Ed.). (2016). Improving reading comprehension through metacognitive reading strategies instruction. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Incorporated.